If you read yesterday’s post, you know that my task today was to search through the 156 episodes of the original Twilight Zone TV series to find some guidance in this time of coronavirus.
I started at the very beginning. Episode One of Season One was telecast on October 2, 1959. The fold-out card that came with the DVDs described “Where Is Everybody?” this way:
Earl Holliman stars as a man on the edge of hysteria in an oddly deserted town. Despite the emptiness, he has the strangest feeling that he’s being watched.
Was this promising for my mission? I didn’t know. Perhaps Wikipedia could help. A minute later, the plot of Episode One lay before me. And it was indeed promising.
On my walks in and near Belmont, there haven’t been many people to say “Hi” to. Even the cars seem to be hunkered down in their driveways and garages. But at least the birds are still in full song. Overall, it’s eerie. Out in the country, I scan the horizon for walking human beings, hoping that they won’t turn off before reaching me.
On my TV, a young man is alone on a country road, approaching a town. Our host, Rod Serling, sets the stage:
The place is here. The time is now. And the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey.
It certainly is.
Main Street is empty. “Anybody here? Hey! Hey!”
There’s a woman sitting in a car across the street. “I don’t seem to remember who I am,” he calls out. But she’s a mannequin.
The phone is ringing in a telephone booth. He sprints, longing for a voice to be with. There is one at the other end of the line … a recording.
A church bell tones through the silence, echoing.
There’s a diner kitty corner, and the man finds ice cream, but no people. He watches himself in a mirror as the delicious flavour goes down. No joy.
“I’d like to find somebody to talk to!”
The man bursts into a movie theatre … row upon row of empty seats. A film is showing but the projection room is empty.
It turns out that this was a military experiment to assess the ability of prospective astronauts to cope with the emptiness of space. The assessors are blunt: “He cracked … It’s a kind of nightmare that your mind manufactured for you.”
As the credits rolled, so did Rod’s words:
The barrier of loneliness: the palpable, desperate need of the human animal to be with his fellow man. Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting … in The Twilight Zone.
My friends, we have resources beyond the physical …
Let’s use them